HYDERABAD: With 10 of its 19 MLAs already having defected to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the fate of the Congress is in a precarious situation as a few more of its MLAs are reportedly in talks to join the TRS. Leaders from the grand old party’s Telangana unit are also claiming that the defections are an attempt by TRS supremo (and Telangana chief minister) K. Chandrashekar Rao to merge the Congress’s legislature party into his own by getting 2/3rds of the Congress MLAs to his side.

“Yes, we have learnt that a few more of our MLAs are in talks with the TRS to defect. If they want to leave, they can. We already tried to stop those who defected earlier, but they did not listen. They have become sellable commodities, as the TRS is offering them money to switch sides," said an office bearer from the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC).

With the defections, the grand old party will contest the upcoming Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies (ZPTC) and Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies (MPTC) elections, which are set to be held from 6 May onwards (in three phases), with a low morale. The TPCC office bearer however said that the Congress is very well prepared to contest the local body polls.

Prior to this development, one by one, 10 Congress MLAs started defecting to the TRS in less three months after the assembly elections were held (on 7 December, 2018) last year. Other leaders like former state home minister D. K. Aruna (in joint Andhra Pradesh) also quit and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party after she was denied a Lok Sabha ticket in the run up to the general elections (17 seats in Telangana).

Even after the 2014 assembly elections, the Congress had lost eight of its 21 MLAs to the TRS. In 2018, it formed a grand alliance by joining hands with the the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Communist Party of India, and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS), but it was match for the TRS, which won 88 of the 119 seats in the assembly.

When contacted, TRS leaders did not want to be quoted or comment, but only said that their party is in talks with a few more Congress MLAs, who might switch sides in the coming days.

Political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy said that chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao is essentially trying to establish his authority by weakening the main opposition in the state . “The Congress for some reason has not been able to find its rhythm. In fact, it took a few months after its loss in the assembly elections last year to start preparing for the Lok Sabha polls," he added.

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